If you want to watch multiple TV channels in Israel, you basically have 2.5 options: “Hot” – the cable TV company, “Yes” – the satellite TV company, and IDAN+ – The digital over-the-air option that gives you a small number of basic channels.
As of this writing, there are no major internet-based TV providers (such as Netflix), though a couple of the cellular companies have been in talks to start net-based channels at some point. The American providers (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, etc’) don’t officially offer services in Israel, though you can google it and find some workarounds.
- Important Tip: Israel’s “Public Broadcasting Authority “, also known as Channel 1, is a government-controlled channel, that carries with it a mandatory yearly tax (called “Agra”), for every household with a TV. It doesn’t matter if you watch if (or are even capable of watching it) – as long as you have a TV, you have to pay the yearly tax. In 2015, Channel 1 is supposed to undergo major changes, and its tax will supposedly get cancelled. Stay Tuned.
1. Idan Plus
Israel’s DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television), an over-the-air service, set-up by a governmental decision in 2009, that can be viewed using a special tuner (either external, or one already embedded into your TV). There are several tuners that you can buy in electronics stores (mostly simple devices, from China), some with recording functionality. The prices go between 200 and 400 shekels, depending on the model.
With Idan Plus, you get 6 basic channels:
Channel 2 – Israel’s first commercial channel (and usually the most popular one, ratings-wise), the eclectic programming consists of Reality shows, news, original series, and endless nightly reruns of Seinfeld and Friends.
Channel 10 – This was Israel’s second commercial channel, it’s been struggling from day 1. The programming is quite similar to channel 2 – lots of Reality shows, news, and unfortunately lots of reruns.
Channel 1 – Israel’s public broadcasting channel. Consists mainly of news program, lifestyle, and a few international series.
Channel 33 – This channel is also operated by the public broadcasting authority. A TV wasteland of sorts, here you’ll find mostly old, “Nostalgic” Israeli shows, Arabic movies and series, and reruns from Channel 1.
Channel 23 – Israel’s Educational TV’s channel, it consists of – surprise – mainly educational shows (most of them aimed at children), news and lifestyle shows, and reruns of shows from the IETV’s golden days in the 80’s.
Channel 99 – The Knesset Channel, with live broadcasts from the Israeli parliament (The Knesset), news and interview shows.
All in all, Idan Plus is good for you if you don’t want to pay a monthly fee (there’s only the one-time tuner purchase), and you don’t need a lot from your TV service provider (i.e., you either watch very little tv, or you get your international shows and movies from other sources), but you still want the basic Israeli channels.
- Important Tip: Like many services in Israel, the price you see on Yes and Hot’s websites is NOT set in stone, but is in fact, usually, a base for negotiations. New customers often get better deals than existing ones – so take advantage of that, and try to lower the asking price. For example, if you’re being asked to pay for first-time setup costs – these can usually be waived.
2. Hot (Cable TV)
- Hot’s Website (Partial English version)
- Hot Customer Service Number: 1-801-700-700
Content: Their main focus is on original, Israeli dramatic series. If you’re looking for Hebrew-speaking shows, Hot excel in that. They do offer channels with international shows (mostly American and some British), but not as much as “Yes”, and several movie channels. They also offer a comprehensive VOD service, with movies, children’s shows and international shows.
Technology: They offer several HD channels, and have recently started offering a new set-top box called FiberBox, that combines their various services (phone line and internet), a TV recorder (TIVO-like), and can also serve as a media center. Their previous recording set-top box (Hot Magic), was considered a failure by many, with various technical issues. The jury is still out regarding their new box.
Price: The most economical offer is to go for their “Triple” packages – that combine the TV channels, an internet service, and a phone line. These will cost you 100-200 shekels less than buying those services separately. Their most comprehensive package, with the full list of channels, high speed internet and an unlimited phone line, is currently priced at 352 shekels per month. Cheaper packages are also available.
- Important Tip: Hot is infamous in Israel for their horrible customer service. Since they have hundreds of thousands of customers, it can’t be all bad- but you should still take that reputation into consideration.
3. Yes (Satellite TV)
- Yes’ website (in Hebrew)
- Yes’ Customer Service Number: 1-800-20-8000
Content: While they do have several original Israeli shows, Yes’ strength lies with popular international (mostly American) shows. They have a channel dedicated to American cable shows (mostly HBO), an action series channel, drama, comedy, etc, and several movie channels. Their VOD offerings are mostly those you can find on their regular channels. The series are mostly free, but the VOD movies cost money.
Technology: Their main tuner offering is the TotalMaxHD – an HD tuner with recording capabilities, VOD capabilities (note that their VOD is internet-based, due to the satellite’s technical limitations), and you can even use the tuner as a streamer, to stream content from your home computer.
Price: Officially, they don’t offer “triple” (TV+Phone+Internet) packages like “Hot”, due to regulatory issues. But often they WILL bring up a representative from Bezeq (Their sister-company, that sells internet connectivity and phone lines) during your phone call with them, and help you negotiate a better price, bringing your total price down. A “Complete” TV-Only package will cost you 229 shekels per month as of this writing, with a couple of lower-priced offerings as well. Their “basic” package, with only a handful of channels, is 120 shekels a month.
- Important Tip: Up until a couple of years ago, you had to have an obligating contract with the TV companies, along with early cancellation fees. That is no longer the case, and you can cancel your TV account (and any other communications-company account, for that matter) at any point. Their phone representatives won’t make it easy for you, however…
Bottom Line: If new, talked-about foreign shows are your cup of tea, Yes is the better choice. If you’re looking for lots of Israeli-based content, or a better total-price, you should look at Hot.